The modern scourge on our communities

Last week I wrote about the flooding of our communities with opiates, and later that day, I learned a friend had just lost her 25-year-old grandson the epidemic.

Yesterday, another friend almost lost her 30-year-old son to it.

That makes three people I know dead in the last year and countless others struggling to stay alive in spite of it.

And today, the person in the White House announced he would cave in to pressure from the drug companies and decline to regulate or even negotiate with the drug companies.

Let me tell you a little about what kind of pain that decision will cause.

Yesterday, I had lunch with my friend, who brought along the program for her grandson’s funeral service. Just seeing his photo made me cry as I thought about the lost potential. We talked about him, and about his father, who also is battling this same addiction.

This death has planted the seeds of radicalism in my 74-year-old friend, just as my son’s death did to me.

“You’ve been here,” she said. “Where do I start?”

I told her to learn everything she can about opiate addiction and its history. I told her how the British flooded China with opium in the 19th Century and that she should look at the parallels with the modern opiate epidemic here.

Big Pharma can claim innocence, but its executives have to know how many pills are out there, and that they’re not all being consumed legitimately. Of course we can’t prove it — these people have really effective ways of covering their tracks. They’re not leaving any smoking guns for us to find.

But they put immense pressure on legislators and others to turn a blind eye to their abuses and to blame the victims.

They knew when they were promoting these pills in the 1990s just how addictive they are, but they convinced us people don’t become addicted if they just take the pills for pain.

Turns out that’s not true. I had a friend who got addicted while taking them for severe back pain. He stopped after he had surgery, but he had to go through withdrawal, and it was miserable, and he felt their pull on him for the rest of his life.

My son continued to take them after severe burns over 40 percent of his body. He did need them for the pain, but after the pain was gone, the pleasure the pills offered was too strong a pull for him and he abused the pills for years before he was able to get off. I still won’t say it’s for good because addiction is a chronic and progressive illness; it has a way of pulling its victims back in.

We as a society are very good at blaming victims for their circumstances. Yes, my son continued to use the pills. But his insurance company paid for the prescriptions for a long time. Then they tried to worm out of paying for in-patient rehab for him.

I’m certain his case is not unique.

Addiction is an illness that causes you to lie to yourself, as well as to others. You tell yourself that you are in control. See, you’re just taking six pills a day. But then you’re taking eight and you tell yourself that’s OK because you’re still going to work and functioning. In fact, you’re functioning better than ever, thank you.

When my son’s doctor refused to prescribe any more pills, he went to a pain clinic an hour from home, across the Florida state line, and a “doctor” there gave him what he wanted.

The son of my sister’s friend turned to heroin, which is cheaper. That’s what my friend’s grandson did, too. Now they’re both dead.

These lives don’t matter to Big Pharma, because like the tobacco companies, they’ll just recruit more addicts as their victims die or go into recovery.

Policy makers obviously don’t care about the lives lost because they’re not moving to make any changes based on the deaths.

Here are a few facts from the American Society of Addiction Medicine:

  • Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2015.
  • From 1999 to 2008, overdose death rates, sales and substance use disorder treatment admissions related to prescription pain relievers increased in parallel. The overdose death rate in 2008 was nearly four times the 1999 rate; sales of prescription pain relievers in 2010 were four times those in 1999; and the substance use disorder treatment admission rate in 2009 was six times the 1999 rate.
  • In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which is more than enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills.
  • Four in five new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers.
  •  94% of respondents in a 2014 survey of people in treatment for opioid addiction said they chose to use heroin because prescription opioids were far more expensive and harder to obtain.

If that doesn’t convince you there’s a problem, and that it is not the fault of the people who fall prey to Big Pharma, I don’t suppose anything will.

 

 

The new opium war

In the 19th century, the British sent tons and tons of opium into China knowing full well its addictive properties and the health problems and deaths that would follow.

The British wanted to trade with the Chinese, but the insular nation wanted little to do with the outside world. China’s ruler insisted that instead of trading for British goods, it would only sell the porcelain and tea the British people wanted for silver. The British didn’t want to deplete their silver reserves, so they developed a work-around — they sent opium into China illegally, demanding payment in silver, which they then used to buy Chinese goods.

In other words, the British sabotaged an entire nation with opium. People who are addicted are not interested in fighting for their rights; all they care about is getting more opium. And even though the sale of opium to China was illegal, the British could always find a corrupt official who would deal with them.

The mess finally led to two wars, known as the Opium Wars, which the British and their allies (France and the United States) won.

So, what does this have to do with today?

In the 1990s, drug companies, particularly Purdue Pharmaceuticals, came out with a new pain killer called Ocycontin, and almost immediately, it began to be abused.

But Purdue and the others kept insisting it wasn’t addictive if taken properly, and doctors continued to prescribe it, even where it wasn’t necessary, when something else could control the patient’s pain. The experts, after all, insisted it was safe.

Over the last 20 years, millions of people have become addicted. I know a number of them, and in the last year or so, three have died of overdoses. One died of a pain pill overdose and the other two died from heroin overdoses. People who are addicted to pain pills often turn to heroin because it’s less expensive.

Pain clinics began to spring up, especially in Florida. These weren’t legitimate pain clinics, but places where people who were addicted could go get an easy prescription.

Patients go in by the droves and are called back to see the doctor a dozen at a time. The doctor asks whether they’re still in pain and they say they are. The doctor writes each of them a prescription.

Now, are these addicts paying attention to their rights being taken away by the 1 percent, bit by bit?

Not so much.

Are they watching while our so-called leaders march us toward a police state?

Nope, they’re looking for more pain pills.

And, if they’re caught, they’re thrown into a justice system that makes them pay their own costs, which for many means there is no escape. People tend not to hire ex-convicts, so paying the tens of thousands of dollars is impossible.

So the question becomes, was this mass addiction deliberate, or are the 1 percent just happy with the coincidence?

That’s not a question I can answer, but I suspect it’s deliberate now. It’s the perfect distraction because not only does addiction take the user’s mind off what the 1 percent is doing to rob us blind, it also distracts the family and friends of the addict, who tend to concentrate on trying to get help for the person.

I refuse to take opiates. I don’t care how much I hurt. If I’ve had surgery or an injury, it will heal and I can manage pain with ibuprofen, naproxen or Tylenol until it does.

If I had cancer or another painful and terminal condition, I probably would agree, but as it is now, I don’t fill prescriptions for opiates. I’m not going to chance it.

I’ve seen what opiate addiction can do. It disables, then kills.

We know this, but we continue to addict more and more people, then we conveniently blame those people for their illness and tell them we don’t have enough beds in rehab to help them kick the addiction.

It seems to me this is deliberate now. Perhaps it wasn’t in the beginning, but it is now.

‘Relax. Give him a chance.’ Nope. Done.

It’s hard to know where to start and we’re only five days in.

Of course, those of us who stood against this man from the beginning knew what would happen, and here we go.

Two oil pipelines got the OK to be built through pristine wilderness and Native American lands, even as one in Iowa has burst and is leaking toxic oil into the environment.

We’re going to build a wall to keep out Mexicans — who, by the way, aren’t coming in such great numbers.

We’re going to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace Medicaid with block grants, then kill Medicare and offer seniors vouchers to buy insurance they can’t afford and that won’t cover what they need covered. Tens of millions will lose access to health care and hundreds of thousands of innocent people will die because their lives don’t matter.

People from predominately Muslim countries can’t come here anymore, even if they’re refugees and their lives are in danger. Their lives don’t matter.

The global ban on funding for any agency that even mentions abortion is gone. This means women’s health clinics will close and women will die because their lives don’t matter.

We will cut funding that helps save lives around the world and retreat from treaties we have signed. We will strand the United Nations, which depends on funding from us, because lives around the world don’t matter.

Just today, the entire top level of staff at the State Department abruptly resigned, leaving the nation’s fate in the hands of inexperienced, unqualified people.

We have stopped informing the public of scientific research that conflicts with the lies the 1 percent want us to believe. We have silenced the Environmental Protection Agency and cut off its ability to fund education and research.

The man in the White House has told us we need to get our news from him and not the news media and then he endorsed Fox News, making this the first time in our nation’s history that we have an “official” news source.

Social media accounts for the national parks have been shut down, as have those for the EPA.  Public phone lines into the White House have been shut off.

Journalists are being arrested for covering the news.

In case you don’t know history, this is fascism. This is real.

In less than a week, we have gone from global power to insular, xenophobic nation. We are seen by the rest of the world as selfish, sexist and racist, homophobic and Islamophobic.

Make America great again? In less than a week we have become small.

 

 

So, what’s next?

Nine of us spent the day together, much of it holding hands to make sure nobody got lost. What a day!

We birthed a movement yesterday.

Millions of us came out to tell the people in power that we will not tolerate the dismantling of the social contract we have built over the last 300 years.

We came out and showed the world what a peaceful demonstration looks like. More than a million people in Washington demonstrated without a single arrest. Not one.

While we waited in a line a half mile long to board a train to the city, we sang freedom songs, chanted and learned a little about each other.

Things even got silly as we chanted, “What do we want? A RIDE! When do we want it? NOW!”

It took us four and a half hours to get from the bus to the rally, but we never lost our cool. We were part of it from the moment we stepped off the bus, together in our desire to pursue justice and prevent the carnage the 1 percent wants to release on our country.

Signs ranged from simple two-word slogans (Dump Trump) to profane (This pussy grabs back) to clever (Can’t comb over sexism) to profound ( I march because she deserves every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve her dreams).

One of my favorite signs from the Women’s March in Washington.

My little group of nine women never got into the march area because there was no room. We got close and then couldn’t move in any direction until someone else moved back and we followed, all holding onto each other. We did that three times as we tried to get across the mall to meet the North Carolina delegation, and weren’t successful.

No matter, we were there. We were part of history, and we won’t ever forget that.

While the official government count was 500,000, the mayor of DC said at noon (as crowds of us were still trying to get into the city) there were 680,000. Before the Administration shut down its Twitter account, the Metro Police estimated 1.5 million people. Now, there’s a real fact.

This is as close as we could get.

Then, the alternative-fact-er in chief came out and said he had 1.5 million people at his coronation.

He did not. Metro Police told us there were empty seats on every train into the city on Coronation Day. An elevator operator at L’Enfant Plaza told us he was able to squeeze in a quick nap or two, but that on March Day, he hadn’t had a single break.

There are those who say the march was all white people whining about losing, but the diversity was everywhere I looked. I walked beside blacks and whites, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Pagans and more.

This was not about losing an election (which actually, we didn’t, since we won the popular vote by 3 million). We were there for a purpose: to tell the people in power that we expect them to use it with wisdom, compassion and justice.

Now we have to show them we mean it.

I know how wonderful yesterday felt; I’m still basking in the joy of its solidarity. I plan to spend all day today basking in it.

But we have work to do, and lots of it.

What is your next step? What will you do to ensure we keep our liberties intact and move forward rather than backward toward hate and division?

The man who won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote by 3 million is already talking about “alternative facts.” I call them lies and I will continue to call them out. We all have to do that.

They know that if you repeat a lie enough times, people begin to believe it. It’s how we got climate change deniers. It’s how people came to believe Hillary Clinton is a murderer. It’s how that man “won” the election.

This government already is talking about dismantling the entire social contract we have built — public education, Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, the Environmental Protection Agency, Veterans services, disability services and more.

They actually are in the minority, but the public apathy they have fostered, the distrust of government, have had a profound effect on our elections.

We must vote, at the very, very least. As they try to take away our votes with laws aimed at suppressing the votes against them, we have to turn out in numbers so large that they’ll still lose.

And our votes must be informed votes. We must learn about the issues so that the “alternate facts” don’t blind us.

We need our legislators to know our names because we call, write and e-mail each of them at least once a week. If enough of us do that, they’ll know we’ll send them home if they don’t do OUR business.

Several years ago, when I approached Rep. Mark Meadows and introduced myself, he sneered, “Oh, I know who you are.” I was thrilled. I’m trouble.

We all need to be trouble, to keep showing up at demonstrations and letting our legislators know that we’re watching what they’re doing and how they’re voting.

We need to run for office, locally, at the state and at the federal levels.

I felt an energy yesterday that I haven’t felt in many, many years. There was an air of hope that we can change the course of history, and I believe we can.

But we won’t change anything if we just go home, share photos and say, “I was there.”

One friend, a former editor, just bought the Internet domain, www.alternativefacts.me, where I believe he will call out lies. He’s known to call out fake news posts; I assume he’ll do that and more with his web site.

You don’t have to build a web site, but you can call out lies on social media when you see them. Before you share a story, find another source so you know it’s true. I’m pretty careful, but I’ve been fooled a couple times when I didn’t check.

It is our job to continue the work we started yesterday.

We birthed a movement. Now we must nurture it, grow it, work for it and make sure it makes the difference we need.

What are you going to do next?

 

 

 

So many issues, so little time

Don’t know what to do? Begin by showing up for rallies, demonstrations and protests.

Several conversations lately have centered on how to be an activist without being overwhelmed.

These are difficult times for those of us who believe in justice and equality, and there have been attacks on every front.

You can’t work on everything.

You can, however, choose one or two issues and devote yourself to that.

You can stand in solidarity with others who are working on different issues.

You can show up at rallies and demonstrations.

You can visit, call or write to legislators and insist on being heard. If they won’t see you when you visit, leave a letter. If they won’t take your calls, leave messages and then send e-mails and snail-mails.

So, your first job is to set your priorities.

What’s most important to you?

Remember that all of these issues need work and you should go to where your passion resides.

For me, it’s health care and women’s equality issues.

For some of my friends, it’s racial equality and voting rights, which I’m also passionate about. I will show up for rallies and I will write to legislators.

But I have learned all I can about my issues. I am the go-to person in my circle of resistors because I have read the Affordable Care Act and I know the statistics surrounding it.

I understand how women die when women’s health clinics are mis-labled deliberately by opponents of abortion, a procedure that takes up only 3 percent of clinic resources. These clinics are shut down because people don’t understand that they offer cancer screenings, health checks, contraception, information and more and that women die when they lose that access to health care.

Some of my friends have extensive knowledge of workers’ rights issues, education, environment … and I depend on them.

Make a list of policies you support and ask legislators where they stand on those policies. Know your legislators’ voting records. You have one state representative and state senator, one Congressional representative and two US senators. You should also know where your governor stands on these issues.

I have one friend who’s on a mission to make her representatives tired of hearing from her. She calls them about everything and reminds them she is a constituent and she’s not going away.

Once you have your list of policies you support, prioritize them. Pick your one or two issues if you haven’t already.

When you write, call or visit concerning these issues, use your own words. When we use form letters or sign online petitions, no one pays attention. If your issue means that much to you, take a few minutes to write what’s in your heart. If you need help expressing your feelings, ask a friend.

You do not have to be arrested to be effective. If you attend a rally or demonstration, take photos so that there is a record of the event and of the numbers attending.

I remember being at a rally in Washington, DC, with 5,000 people before the Affordable Care Act was passed, and Rick Sanchez in CNN reported, “Dozens of people showed up at a rally today …” But the video footage told the real story. It was dozens of people all right — hundreds of dozens of people.

When media misrepresent what’s happening, post your truth on social media, then write to the media outlet that lied. Call them out with letters to the editor and phone calls. Include your photos.

What’s going on today is the result of decades of increasing voter apathy. We can’t afford to sit back anymore, and millions of us are beginning to realize that.

We must care about what’s happening in our country, and we must work to make others care.

So, go ahead and take that first step. Decide what issue or issues you will call your own and get to work.

Seek out others who are doing the work and organize, even if it’s a half dozen people at a letter-writing party, you’re doing something that wasn’t being done before.

You can make a difference, you just have to decide to do it.

#Resist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roy Cooper can’t do this by himself; neither can I

Roy Cooper is governor, and he wants to expand Medicaid, but he can’t without the approval of the General Assembly, which is still controlled by mean-spirited Republicans.

North Carolina’s new governor announced the other day that he wants to expand Medicaid.

That’s good news, but he can’t do it without the General Assembly. That’s the law in this state because Pat McCrory signed it into law — four years ago, as one of his first acts in office.

This was not part of the last-minute, strip-Cooper-of-his-powers stuff passed by the GA in special session last month; this was very early on, and McCrory was happy to do it. You could tell by the smarmy grin on his face in the photo.

I dogged him for three years before I was finally able to talk to him. He didn’t make appointments with people who disagreed with him — just like the majority leadership in the General Assembly. Instead they had us arrested when we showed up and refused to leave.

When I did corner him, he said he was sorry about my son and I told him his apology means nothing to me until he also apologizes to the families of the up to 8,000 people who died because he refused to expand Medicaid.

The opponents of health care reform have done everything they can, at every opportunity, to kill what little progress we have made in getting access to care to people who need it.

The US Senate took its first steps toward repeal yesterday by putting it into a budget resolution bill, and Democrats announced they won’t fight it. They said they’re going to take a ‘Pottery Barn” approach and let the GOP break it and own it.

Four years ago, before McCrory was elected, Democrats here in North Carolina said the same thing. “Let the Republicans have all of it, and in four years, people will be so disgusted, we’ll get it all back.”

Some 8,000 deaths later, the GOP still has a stranglehold on power here, even though we elected a Democratic governor — one who is powerless to increase access to health care by expanding Medicaid.

If Democrats won’t fight, I will leave the party and support candidates who will fight. If I’m willing to put my life on the line to increase access to health care, the least these people can do is stand up to the murdering thugs who would take it away from 22 million people who have gained access to care via the Affordable Care Act.

Lives are more important than political points.

Let me say that again: Lives are more important than political points.

If we don’t fight, we become as guilty of murder as those who vote to take away access to care.

Yes, I called it murder because negligent homicide is murder, and allowing people to die when they can and should get treatment is negligent homicide.

We need to fight these murdering thugs. We need to stand up and call them out on their crimes.

We didn’t elect Roy Cooper to stand alone so we can shake our heads and wonder why he isn’t expanding Medicaid — or funding education, or taking politics out of higher education, or passing a living-wage law …

Stop sitting on your sofa and shaking your head. Call and e-mail your state and federal representatives, not with links to web sites that express your views, not with form letters, but with your own words.

Tell them their behavior is unacceptable.

Then, if you can afford it, contribute to organizations that will fight these policies — the Southern Poverty Law Center, the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and others.

Attend a march so that when the heads are counted, yours will be among them.

You don’t have to handcuff yourself to a Congress member’s chair, but you do have to stand up for what’s right in small ways because, while each voice is small, we are a deafening roar when we speak together.

No one person can defeat these thugs, but together, we can. Work with me here, OK?

 

 

We don’t have to just sit here. We can resist.

We can all take actions, large or small, to resist unjust public policies.

I know I’m not the only one who has felt immobilized by fear after the election. The thought of Trumplethinskin in the White House has kept me up at night and made me feel hopeless and helpless like never before.

I have reached out to friends and therapists, even a psychiatrist, Steven Buser, M.D., who also is co-author of the book, “A Clear and Present Danger: Narcissism in the Age of Trump.” (Chiron Publications, $16.95)

“In 30 years of clinical practice, I have never seen this level of dread and anxiety in any election,” Buser said.

Dr. Kelly Johnson, a therapist and friend, told me she has seen a tremendous increase in the number of people who are experiencing “teariness,” anxiety and depression, as have her peers. In fact, she says, it’s not just patients — she and her peers are feeling it, too.

Most of us are afraid this man will keep his campaign promises.

Some of us — many of us — are survivors of sexual violence, and we are appalled that a confessed sexual predator who has no experience in government is moving into the White House.

How could confessing to grabbing women by the pussy not have been a game changer for voters?

For weeks, I have seen posts on Facebook and heard people talking about how we can stop him from taking power, and I have said all along I can’t buy into these false hopes. We are going to have to deal with this man, like it or not.

So, here are some tips I’m following:

  • Don’t watch TV news. Not any of it. Read your news from trusted sources online, such as The Guardian, BBC and Democracy Now. This man’s voice is a trigger for me and many others. You won’t hear or see him if you don’t watch or listen. Check the validity of your sources to make sure you’re not being pulled in by propaganda (aka “false news”).
  • Practice self-care. We’re in for a bumpy ride and we need to be in the best frame of mind to face it. So, get plenty of rest. Take walks outdoors. Take a yoga class. Meditate. Do some deep breathing exercises. Create — knit, paint, sculpt, make jewelry … Eat healthy, but do indulge in a favorite treat once a week or so.
  • Don’t turn to alcohol. A drink might seem to dull the senses for a time, but alcohol is a depressant, and if you’re feeling down already, it won’t help.
  • Find an issue and work on it. One issue, two at most, is what you need because you don’t want to spread yourself too thin. Go to marches and rallies, if only to remind yourself that others feel the same way you do and to connect with them. If you don’t want to be involved in anything political right now, that’s OK; you can deliver Meals on Wheels or volunteer at an animal shelter or an after-school program.
  • Take action in some small way. Write to your members of Congress. That’s how we stopped them from gutting the ethics office. As much as Trumplethinskin thinks his tweet stopped them, it was, in reality, the actions of tens of thousands of citizens who called, e-mailed or showed up at their offices.
  • Reach out to friends. I started a group for women who have survived sexual violence and who were triggered by the election. It was supposed to be a one-time event, but we all agreed we’re going to need each other over the coming months.
  • Contribute to the effort to fight the injustices that are coming. Donate to the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women or the Southern Poverty Law Center.
  • If you think you need professional help, you probably do. Don’t hesitate to call a therapist or talk to your doctor or clergy person.
  • Most of all, don’t give up. There are more Americans who didn’t vote for this man than who did. He and his ilk may have power for now, but we can resist. In fact, we must.

 

Yes, I’m jealous of Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds was lucky enough to be able to join her daughter, Carrie Fisher.

If you have lost a child, you will understand why I’m jealous of Debbie Reynolds.

It’s impossible to express the grief of losing a child. One friend described it as losing a huge piece of her innards, as though something had been torn from her. It was a physical pain.

Another friend recalls falling to the floor and screaming because there were no words and she lost the strength to stand.

We carry a hole in our hearts that can’t be patched, and it never, ever stops hurting, even for a moment.

I remember I had it in my head that my heart would stop when my son’s did. I couldn’t imagine life without him.

I sat by him, holding his hand and telling him how much I loved him as he breathed his last.

“He’s gone,” the nurse said after he stopped breathing.

But that couldn’t be so, I thought. I’m still here, and I can’t be here after he’s gone.

But there I was, alive and pissed.

I hadn’t told anyone I would die with him; I didn’t think I had to. Everyone would know why my heart stopped.

But then it didn’t stop.

I tried to will it to stop, but it kept beating.

In eight and a half years since he died, I have wondered every day when I will be able to join him.

I feel my heart beat and the injustice of it still makes me angry.

Yes, I have another child and four grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter. Yes, I have nieces and nephews and siblings whom I love very much. And yes, I have friends — wonderful friends, a ton of them.

But I don’t have Michael.

I know this doesn’t make sense to you unless you have lost a child, especially if you lost that child to injustice.

He shouldn’t have died.

If he had been able to gain access to health care, he would still be with us.

If Carrie Fisher had been downtown instead of on an airplane, she might have gotten help in time. She might still be alive, and so would her mother.

If, if, if …

But the reality is my Michael is gone and I’m still here.

When I heard Debbie Reynolds had suffered a severe stroke, I felt a tinge of jealousy.

“She’s going to die,” I told my husband. “She gets to go be with her daughter.”

Sure enough, an hour later, he was online and saw she had died.

“Lucky,” I muttered under my breath.

My son has come to me a few times in extremely vivid dreams since he died. Don’t try and tell me he wasn’t there because I know he was.

When I see him, I tell him I want to go with him. I tell him I don’t want to be here any more.

But every time, he says the same thing: “That’s not an option now, Mom. You have work to do.”

Since he died, I have fought every day to expand access to health care to all people. I don’t say all Americans because there are plenty of people who aren’t Americans who need health care too.

I have gone to Raleigh and to Washington. I have spoken to people in power and told them there should be no test for access to care. Everyone should have it, even if we have to give it to them without requiring them to have a full-time job or to make more than poverty wages.

I have called them out when they say they are “pro-life” but in the next breath try to rationalize why we can’t allow everyone to have access to quality care like most of the rest of the world does.

And in the eight and a half years since my child died, we have made a little progress, but now we are poised to step backward, and all the work I have done to try and prevent more people from dying the way my child did appears to have been for nothing.

I have told his story again and again, but people seem to think he was the exception, that most people who die from lack of access to care somehow deserved it.

“Screw work,” I want to say, but I know it won’t do any good.

I can’t go yet.

Debbie Reynolds was the lucky one.

I have to stay here, without my son, because I have work to do.

The deceitful, shameful, hate-filled NC GOP played us again

Late in the afternoon Wednesday, state representatives waited for word that the Senate had taken action to repeal HB2. The Senate didn’t do its job.

I don’t know why anyone thought the North Carolina Republicans could be trusted.

Again and again, they have played us for fools, and we keep thinking they might do the right thing, just once.

Nope.

The GOP leaders brokered a deal with Governor-elect Roy Cooper and the City of Charlotte, and yesterday, they reneged on the deal.

So, first, some background:

Earlier this year, Charlotte passed a law offering protection to transgender people, codifying their ability to use the rest room of the gender with which they identify. Immediately, the NC General Assembly was called into special session and the GOP rammed through a bill, known as HB2, that nullified Charlotte’s law.

But there’s more. The so-called Bathroom Bill was about a lot more than bathrooms. It robbed local governments of the ability to set a minimum wage higher than that of the state. It robbed local governments of the ability to pass any non-discrimination legislation. It robbed workers of the ability to sue employers for discrimination in state courts.

Retribution was swift. States began banning business travel to North Carolina. Sports organizations pulled their games and tournaments from the state, costing us tens of millions of dollars in revenue.

And the whole rest of the world saw us as backward and hateful.

And while the majority of North Carolinians are not backward and hateful, the state Republican Party has gerrymandered voting districts so that it takes more than two Democratic votes to do the same thing as one Republican vote. They they passed a law that would make it more difficult for African-Americans, students and the elderly to vote (because these groups tend to vote for Democrats).

The voting districts have been struck down twice by the courts, and the state will have to redistrict yet again and pay for another election in the fall of 2017 because the 2016 election was so tainted by the districts as the GOP drew them.

The federal courts also struck down most of the provisions in the voting law.

Gov. McCrory, the only governor in the country to lose re-election, was defeated because of HB2.

So, last week, McCrory called another special session to pass legislation to send much needed help to areas of the state devastated by flooding from Hurricane Matthew and by recent wildfires.

The GOP used that special session to call another special session, in which they stripped power from the incoming governor. Then they went home, and McCrory signed the bill.

News came on Monday that the General Assembly was willing to repeal HB2 — the entire thing — if Charlotte would agree to repeal its anti-discrimination law. The incoming governor urged the city to take the deal, and Charlotte repealed its ordinance.

I went to Raleigh, hoping to witness the GOP doing the right thing for once, but I came home disappointed.

Instead of the clean repeal of the bill that was promised, Republicans added an amendment that would have prevented local governments from passing any anti-discrimination ordinances for six months.

Democrats balked, and rightly so. The so-called cooling-off period was not part of the deal, and the whole idea of repeal was so that cities and counties could have the autonomy to ban discrimination.

Republicans doubled down, amending the amendment to extend the “cooling-off” period to 30 days beyond the end of the 2017 legislative session. It also would have given them the option to extend the moratorium again and again.

In other words, the GOP was never sincere about working with Democrats.

Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP, issued a statement after the session closed.

“Our elected officials should have worked to protect all the people of North Carolina but instead they wasted our time and tax money,” the statement read in part. “Both the House and the Senate’s all white Republican caucus have proven that they are not fit to govern North Carolina.”

Toward the end of the special session, which cost taxpayers $42,000, Republicans in the Senate stood up and insulted everyone who disagrees with their narrow-hate-filled vision of what North Carolina should be. They called us lunatics and accused us of being “under the influence of California and other places.”

They lied through their teeth about what had happened during the day, even though we who sat in the Gallery witnessed it.

After the Senate failed to pass the repeal, I spoke to Rep. Chris Sgro, who is a gay man and executive director of Equality NC, and he held out hope that something good could come of the special session.

It turned out his hope was misplaced, along with the hopes of the hundreds of North Carolinians who came out to witness the state GOP finally doing the right thing.

This state’s Republican Party is incapable of doing the right thing. Its leadership is made up of lying, thieving, narrow-minded thugs who care nothing for the people of this state — they people they are supposed to serve.

I was there yesterday. All day and into the evening. I saw what happened.

Once again, we were betrayed.

 

Hoping won’t stop this. We must resist.

My friend and Moral Monday colleague, Rev. Curtis Gatewood being arrested last week -- again -- in protest of the unjust actions of the NC General Assembly.

My friend and Moral Monday colleague, Rev. Curtis Gatewood being arrested last week — again — in protest of the unjust actions of the NC General Assembly.

Stop pretending that the Electoral College or the Department of Justice will come to our rescue like a prince in shining armor to stop the Orange One from taking office on Jan. 20.

The election was in all likelihood stolen by a combination of Russian interference and a little tampering with the technology by GOP operatives, but we are creatures of habit and we won’t hold a new election, nor will we hand the office to the person who won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.

We have been trained to be lazy and accept what happens — that’s why more than half of us didn’t even bother to vote in the most important election of our lifetimes.

It’s not going to happen, so just get over it.

Blaming voters for the slow-motion coup that has been plotted and executed since Nixon devised the Southern Strategy will not change things, it will only serve to further divide us.

Trying to persuade people who voted for him that they were conned won’t work, either, because they have been brainwashed by the propaganda machine that is Fox News. Arguing with them is a waste of time and energy because they operate in a different reality with different facts. They already believe he won in a landslide.

To continue to concentrate on the sheep who have been led to the slaughter does nothing but divide us, and that weakens us.

I am being realistic here. This man will take office and he will appoint right-wing justices that will change the direction of our nation for decades. He will destroy what little remains of our social safety net and he likely will get us into devastating wars.

My friend and resistance colleague, Rev. Kojo Nantumbe, was arrested last week with more than 50 others.

My friend and resistance colleague, Rev. Kojo Nantambu, was arrested last week with more than 50 others. (Photo by Kevin Smith)

So what do we do?

We resist. We band together and work to defeat this vile creature at every turn, using everything we can.

Look at what we are doing here in North Carolina. We have spent the last four years protesting, educating and putting our bodies on the line.

We have sued to overturn unjust laws, and we have won.

We have been arrested by the thousands and brought national attention to the travesties wrought by these right-wing ideologues.

We still have a veto-proof GOP majority in the legislature, but we have a new governor and attorney general. And the courts have ordered the ridiculously gerrymandered districts to be redrawn and new elections held next year.

We continue to resist. Just last week, we packed the gallery to witness the power grab that was about to take place. Some 60 of our number were arrested for refusing to leave, charged with trespass in a public building while it was open to the public (I have been arrested and charged with that twice and have yet to be convicted).

We write to our legislators, even when we know damn well they won’t listen.

Two years ago, I worked my ass off to defeat my state representative, Tim Moffitt, who was among the worst of them. I knocked on doors, I made phone calls, I registered people to vote and gave them rides to the polls. His opponent, Brian Turner, won (and ran unopposed this last time).

We can resist. We can put our bodies on the line when necessary. We can show up and let them know we see and will resist what they are doing.

So, please stop waiting for the Justice Department or the Electoral College to save us.

We must do the work ourselves, together, in solidarity.

 

 

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